Saturday, May 12, 2007

Characteristics of Light

There are three characteristics of light that are important to photography:

1. Light Intensity

2. Light Direction

3. Light Color

Intensity is simply how much light is hitting the subject. There is bright light and what I call flat light which are gray overcast days. Photographers manipulate the amount of light hitting the sensor (I won't use the word film ever again) by adjusting aperture, shutter speed or through filters or perhaps even using a flash unit or other artificial light source. Bright light can have very high contrast i.e. bright areas and dark shadows. Flat light which is typified by dark cloudy days tends to show very little contrast. The intensity of light call really set the mood of a photo. Do photos really have moods??

I like to use light direction creatively in photography. Light coming from the sides is useful for showing textures and detail, much like the photo of the dunes in my Michigan gallery. By far the most challenging light is front light where the light is coming straight toward the camera. The results of successful use of front light however can be very rewarding, such as my tulips photo on the opening page of the website. Perhaps the easiest to expose for is light coming directly over the photographer's shoulder. I have been experimenting more and more with different light directions and ways that I can incorporate into my photography. Soon, I will post a photo that is just light and lines, but it was the light that first caught my attention.

Finally, light has different colors and digital photographers will often refer to color temperature. Oranges and reds which are commonly found during sunset or sunrise are considered "warm" light. Blues which are evident in photos with snow is considered cold. A perfect example of cold and warm light shows in the photo of the "Kingsley Tree" in my Michigan gallery. The blue tones in the snow are the result of the blue sky and yet at the same time there is warm light along the horizon.

I have photographed in all different types of light - backlight, sidelight, bright light, soft light, flat light, warm light, cold light and low light. Do I have a preference for light? Yes, by far I prefer warm, soft light which I believe brings out the best in landscape images. However, there are always exceptions......

As always thank you for visiting my site and I hope that you will enjoy and appreciate my images.

Tom Haxby

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